We had a great time sharing at YWAM Ozarks in Ozark, AR!  It’s been such a blessing to be a part of this community during our sabbatical, and the Holy Spirit moved as we shared during a recent DTS community night. Below you can listen to Adam and Lora share a message about the way God led us to Madagascar, the Antakarana people and the work we do to reach them, and the trials and tribulations we’ve suffered along the way, as well as how those trials have brought us ever closer to Jesus. Unfortunately, the first 20-30 seconds of the message are cut off (in which Adam is starting to describe how God gave him a vision when he was 15 years old). We hope this message can encourage you as you seek to follow God’s calling in your life!

 

 Sharing in His Sufferings (8-26-2019 – YWAM Ozarks, Ozark, AR – Adam & Lora Willard)

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Click below for the full notes and to see the pictures and video from the presentation:

'Sharing in His Sufferings' full notes transcript

How we got to Madagascar

>>>   ADAM   <<< 

Sunset on Nosy Mitsio

Sunset on Nosy Mitsio

  • [Opening slide](nice scenery)
  • Adam’s vision
    Madagascar is off the southeast coast of Africa

    Madagascar is off the southeast coast of Africa

  • thought I could quit high school, but God didn’t say that
  • went to school to get a degree in Missions and French
  • 3 yrs before first visit to Madagascar
  • met Lora and married after college
  • taught for 2 years in public schools
  • joined the Peace Corps and served in a rural village in South Africa for 2 1/2 years
    Us with our host family when we served as Peace Corps Volunteers in South Africa from 2008-2010

    Us with our host family when we served as Peace Corps Volunteers in South Africa from 2008-2010

  • then finally to Madagascar, 12 years after vision – thought things would go quickly
  • learned language for 6 months and did DTS there in Malagasy
    YWAM Tamatave DTS 2012

    YWAM Tamatave DTS 2012

  • Our DTS outreach team to the village of Antenina in 2012

    Our DTS outreach team to the village of Antenina in 2012

Moved to Nosy Mitsio

  • went to work with unreached people group, the Antakarana.
    The Antakarana homeland in Northern Madagascar.

    The Antakarana homeland in Northern Madagascar.

  • This is what it means to be unreached.

>>>   LORA   <<<

  • moved to the island of Nosy Mitsio.  
    Nosy Mitsio Panorama

    Nosy Mitsio Panorama

    Very rural setting. No electricity, no running water, no markets, and no roads, just walking from place to place
  • people live in small village communities scattered thoughout the island
    One of the small villages on Nosy Mitsio

    One of the small villages on Nosy Mitsio

  • Incarnational ministry
  • all transport it done by boat such as these across the ocean for 35 miles to get to the mainland
    A boat traveling out to Nosy Mitsio

    A boat traveling out to Nosy Mitsio

  •  
    everyone piles on and tries to find a spot among the dried fish and coconuts
    Riding a boat from Nosy Mitsio

    Riding a boat from Nosy Mitsio

  • completely dependent on the wind and the waves
  • because there are no markets on the island, people rely on subsistence farming of rice, their staple food
    Harvesting rice on Nosy Mitsio

    Harvesting rice on Nosy Mitsio

  • a lot of the materials needed to build our home and the rest of our team members’ homes came this way
  • this was rice storage hut we stayed in for a few months while our house was built
    The rice storage hut we stayed in for several months when we first moved to Nosy Mitsio

    The rice storage hut we stayed in for several months when we first moved to Nosy Mitsio

  • this was our finished home.  We wanted to live a similar lifestyle, to reduce the barriers between us and them
    Our finished home on Nosy Mitsio

    Our finished home on Nosy Mitsio

The Antakarana

  • [show video introducing Antakarana people]

  • bathing at the well story.
    The well we first used when arriving on Nosy Mitsio

    The well we first used when arriving on Nosy Mitsio

    emphasize how we couldn’t understand anything but the word “fady” – challenges of learning new language and belief system
  • explain what taboos are

>>>  ADAM   <<<

  • describe the 5 year cycle of rituals:  
    Nosy Mitsio,
    The "fijoroagna" ("sacrifice") 5-yr ritual on Nosy Mitsio

    The “fijoroagna” (“sacrifice”) 5-yr ritual on Nosy Mitsio

     
     Bridge into caves,
    The bridge to enter the cave every 5 years in the Ankarana reserve

    The bridge to enter the cave every 5 years in the Ankarana reserve

        
     Marching into caves – as many as possible,
    Marching into the caves

    Marching into the caves

     torchlight in caves – all the related taboos
    Torchlight in the ancestral caves

    Torchlight in the ancestral caves

  • – nominal Muslims
    Antakarana people practicing Islamic rituals at a funeral

    Antakarana people practicing Islamic rituals at a funeral

>>>   LORA   <<<

  • – spirit possession ceremonies – what “tromba” are, most women have them, many men
    A "tromba" (ancestral spirit possession) ceremony on Nosy Mitsio

    A “tromba” (ancestral spirit possession) ceremony on Nosy Mitsio

  • Mama Moana stories of possession and taboos
    Mamani'moana with David

    Mamani’moana with David

  • believe you’ll die if you cast the spirits out
  • Mama Sina’s response of “not yet”
    Mamani'Sina with David

    Mamani’Sina with David

Work we’ve done

>>>   ADAM   <<<

  • prayed for people
     Prayed for boy’s foot healing “mitsabo” – beginning ministry was difficult
    Ambahafao village

    Ambahafao village

  • Story of swordfish  
    Catching a sailfish near Nosy Mitsio

    Catching a sailfish near Nosy Mitsio

>>>   LORA   <<<

  • Bible translating  
    Translating Bible stories into the Antakarana language

    Translating Bible stories into the Antakarana language

  • storytelling in the villages
    Discovery Bible studies on Nosy Mitsio

    Discovery Bible studies on Nosy Mitsio

  • Medical  
    Community healthcare meeting on Nosy Mitsio

    Community healthcare meeting on Nosy Mitsio

Challenges

>>>   ADAM   <<<

  • Even from the beginning, the enemy found any way he could to attack the work and keep the gospel from going out.  We faced every sort of challenge in trying to do this work.  When we’re powerless in the face of these huge challenges, we tend to say to ourselves, this must not be what God wants.  We say “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” so if I can’t do this it must not be what Christ wants.  People say God will not give you more than you can handle.
    A boat we tried to rent

    A boat we tried to rent

  • There were physical challenges. Tell story of drifting at sea.  

>>>   LORA   <<<

  • Not only did we have physical challenges such as this, our team had constant physical ailments of all kinds throughout their time
  • The more effective attacks came through team relationships.  
  • From the moment they arrived, there was frequent strife in the team.  
    Our team when they first arrived in Madagascar

    Our team when they first arrived in Madagascar

    There was bickering about who gets what seat on the taxi and who gets which hotel room, whose family gets to unload first from the boat.  There were even arguments about whether or not you should pray while fasting.
  • It even got to the point where we were told that the whole team was against us.

>>>   ADAM   <<<

  • There were challenges with community relationships.  
    Tell story of team members leaving.
    One of the villages on Nosy Mitsio

    One of the villages on Nosy Mitsio

  • All these attacks were spiritual in nature, but masqueraded as the mundane.
  • By the time we were able to start sharing the stories, then the spiritual attacks became much more direct.
  • Share Nosy Lava story
    Heading out to Nosy Lava in our team boat

    Heading out to Nosy Lava in our team boat

     
    – shared Jesus with them anyway 
    Around the campfire on Nosy Lava

    Around the campfire on Nosy Lava

  • ending of public Bible story gatherings – dreams, spirit possessions (were they ready for exorcism?), etc.
  • Notorious witch moved into our village, conflict in our village and others
    Ancestral ruins in our village on Nosy Mitsio

    Ancestral ruins in our village on Nosy Mitsio

>>>   LORA   <<<

  • At that time we had teammates drifting into depression and suicidal thoughts.
  • Within a few months of that time, all but one other family had left the work there.  We were heading back to the US for furlough / home assignment.

Lessons

  • By this time, we’d spent nearly four years in continuous outreach to the Antakarana, and we certainly hadn’t achieved the results we’d expected.  We asked ourselves is this what God wanted?  When you find yourself in this place, you have to take it back to God.
  • For us it was clear: both God’s desires for the Antakarana people and his call for us to continue the work

>>>   ADAM   <<<

  • So what about all the teammates who weren’t continuing?  That’s a question I’ve often wrestled with, and ultimately, we just don’t know.  Everyone’s call has to be tested  [Bible verse slide]  – “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election.” – 2 Peter 1:10
  • Most of the time this happens before they go to do what God’s calling them – certainly it’s best when it happens that way.
  • Callings are tested through patience, perseverance, and hardship.  Usually affirmed by others.  
  • Don’t try to run ahead of God’s call.  Don’t try to achieve it on your own.  At best, you’re likely to face a lot more hardships than you would have otherwise, and at worst, you may very well disrupt what God is doing in your life and what he’s trying to do in others’ lives.
  • So you always have to take it back to God in prayer – HE has to sustain you, HE has to confirm that you’re where he wants you

>>>   LORA   <<<

  • But for us we had to ask ourselves the question: If this is where God wants us, why do we have so little to show for it?  Why is it taking so long?  We didn’t get a clear answer to those questions.  So then we asked ourselves, is it worth it?
  • We are reminded in 2 Peter 3:9  [Bible verse slide] – “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9
  • We adopt the attitude in Hebrews 10  [Bible verse slide] – “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds… So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” – Hebrews 10:23-24, 35-36
  • We never started this work to accomplish something for ourselves, but out of faithfulness to Him, because of who he is, and his heart for all people in the world, even those far from him.  So we continue to turn to him and lean on his faithfulness.

Renewed hopes and difficulties

  • Last time we left the U.S. and returned to Madagascar, we brought renewed hopes and entered into renewed difficulties.
     
    Port St Louis - the main port for traveling to/from Nosy Mitsio

    Port St Louis – the main port for traveling to/from Nosy Mitsio

  • When we got back, we rejoined the one remaining family from the team, and were excited about how we were going to work together in new season of ministry there & we had the opportunity to have a national/Malagasy join our team.
  • Unfortunately, our teammates continued to have a number of personal struggles and the enemy attacked them heavily through those areas.  
  • Less than a year after we returned, they decided they no longer wanted to continue in any sort of team ministry, and cut off all communication with us.
  • We prayed, God was clear that we couldn’t stay in disunity and build the church on a broken foundation.  We knew we’d have to leave soon before the work was ruined.  Prayed to ask God what we should do next, and for a long time he didn’t tell us.

>>>   ADAM   <<<

  • Meanwhile, the witness on Nosy Mitsio was being destroyed as badly as it could be, due to the way many of our former teammates’ actions were completely contradicting the Gospel we’d been sharing.  All of our hard work, our deliberate efforts to show Christ to them, all of our words that told who he was, his goodness, and truth, and love, the way he reconciles all men to himself and to each other: all of it seemed to be made futile.
  • We were devastated, ashamed, felt like utter failures, etc.
  • We knew we had to leave and finally felt God was encouraging us to make the decision with the wisdom and knowledge he’d given us.  
    At the markets in Ambilobe

    At the markets in Ambilobe

     So we moved to Ambilobe where there are new ministry opportunities-more accessible to Antakarana.
    Our rental home in Ambilobe

    Our rental home in Ambilobe

  • During this time, nearly all of our ministry support structures fell away, and we had very few people we could turn to.  We continued to suffer challenges from many directions.
  • This began the greatest season of doubt in our lives, and we wondered “why are we still here?” “should we still be here?”  “why don’t we just give up and go home and live a comfortable life for ourselves?”
  • But God was still speaking to us, reassuring us of his presence:
  • [Bible verse slide] “…Many of his disciples said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’… From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. So Jesus asked the twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, where else shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” – John 6:60, 66-68
  • Though he didn’t explain all the details to us, didn’t yet help us understand the difficulties we faced, yet we know that he is Lord – we couldn’t deny it.  “To who else should we go?”

>>>   LORA   <<<

  • Lora shares sacrifice vision.  We had died and suffered all this loss, but God said it was pleasing to him.  Once again like when we were drifting in the boat, we were exactly where and how God wanted us, even in our complete brokenness and uselessness.
  • Around this time God had been speaking to us about taking a sabbatical and stepping back from the work for a season.  At first we resisted.  It didn’t fit well with our hopes and plans for that time, but we obeyed.
  • Since then and through all that’s come before, God has drawn us nearer to him than he ever has before.  He’s taught us lessons that he’s planted deep within us at the core of who we are.  He’s put us back together again, he’s transformed us, he’s resurrected us.

Conclusion

>>>   ADAM   <<<

  • When we left Nosy Mitsio, it felt like we were taking nothing with us, that all those years resulted in nothing but pain and suffering for us, and an unreached people whose view of Jesus was irrevocably tainted by the sins of his witnesses.
  • We don’t know how things will turn out in the long run for the people of Nosy Mitsio, for those whom we’ve come to love and cherish there, who we long to see enter the Kingdom of God together with us.
  • But God has shown us that we have taken a lot from those years in that place.  In all that happened, God drew us nearer to him.  He’s taught us things that we’ve learned deeply.  He’s humbled us and made us ever more reliant on him, ever more aware of the time we need to spend in prayer before him, ever more aware that this is his work, and in ourselves we’re powerless to accomplish it.  But HE is faithful.  His Kingdom will be established among the Antakarana.  And he’s graced us to continue working with him towards that end.
  • When God calls you to join him in his Kingdom work, you will  You’ll be attacked from every angle, everything possible will be done to make you quit and give up.
  • Jesus anticipated this, that’s why he said:  [Bible verse slide]: “Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me’.” – Matthew 16:24
  • This is a hard teaching: to obediently take up the instrument of our own execution and to stumble along, following Jesus up the hill to Golgotha, where the certainty of pain and death awaits us.
  • The question isn’t whether you will struggle and fail, but what will you do about it?
  • Will you turn to Jesus or will you turn away?
  • If you turn to him, he will draw you ever further within him, growing in your likeness of him:
  • [Bible verse slide] “I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.” – Colossians 1:24 – Knowing Christ in sufferings and resurrection
  • Even if at the end, everything has failed and you have nothing to show for it, except that you’ve grown nearer to God, that’s enough.  That’s at the center of it.   The goal of all of it is for you to draw nearer to God and to help others do the same.  
  • And it’s our motto in YWAM: to know God and to make him known.
  • Somehow as we suffer with Christ and take up our crosses to follow him, he uses even that suffering and death to draw more men to him.
  • [Bible verse slide] “’And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to indicate the kind of death he was going to die.” – John 12:32-33 – at the cross he’ll draw all men to himself
  • When we suffer like him, we know him better because we get a feel for what his life was like, we experience the mystery that defeated death itself.
  • But when we suffer in him, we also help others know him.  His act of crucifixion is played out again and again even in our own lives, and somehow this mystery draws to him those who are hurt and broken, the weak and the wounded, the least, the last, and the lost.  And in him, together we find new life.
  • [Bible verse slide]- “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds… So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” – Hebrews 10:23-24, 35-36
  • So next month we head back to Madagascar, to continue working with God as he draws all men to himself, in the hope of seeing the Antakarana enter into God’s⌡ Kingdom together with us.

>>>   LORA   <<<

Take this time to reflect on what you feel God is teaching you, and I want to challenge all of you:

Are you ready to surrender?  To take up your cross whenever he calls?

 

Visit our audio page to hear more sermons and messages from Adam and Lora.